It is hiring season for educators and educational leaders, specifically principals. The process of finding a dream job can be extremely draining on ones physical and emotional well being. Although this post will focus on principals, strategies mentioned can be easily transferred for use by any educator or professional.
I recently went through a comprehensive interview process that included an application phase, interview with a large committee, site visit to my school, site visit to the school I applied for which included student, staff, parent & community forums and finally an interview with the superintendent. At the completion of the process I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the new principal of Monomoy Regional High School and knew that this was my dream job! This did not happen by accident.
When school districts hire they do so with extreme focus, diligence and planning. They are looking for a leader that will best fit their school system and lead them to excellence. These positions are extremely competitive and hiring committees and superintendents are putting their collective trust in who they hire. Leaders looking for principal jobs must be prepared and do whatever it takes to gain an advantage over other well trained and qualified applicants. I will share 5 tips/strategies that have worked for me in my successful search for educational leadership positions. This list is by no means exhaustive, please feel free to comment and add - our PLN will appreciate it.
1. FIT: spend time extensively researching the position before you apply
- Don't apply for A job, apply for the RIGHT job. Principals spend a great deal of time at work, you should apply to a school district that is the best fit for you, somewhere you won't mind staying long hours and possibly many years.
- Research the superintendent and his/her vision and philosophies-are they in line with yours?
- Visit the town, its restaurants, coffee shops and town events and ask yourself "do I want to be part of this community?" For each of my principal positions I spent weeks visiting the towns and speaking to local folks about their town and what they thought about the schools before I applied.
- Everyone reads the school website- you need to do more if you want the edge: read all the local newspapers, subscribe to local town forums on RSS feeds, follow local groups on twitter and attend school committee meetings.
- Call a friend-reach out to anyone and everyone that works in the district and speak to them. What is great about the school, what do they need to improve, what are they looking for in a principal, etc.
2. Create your Entry Plan: your vision, values, goals and beliefs as a leader on paper.
- This document prepares you for this specific job and shows you have planned to raise this school to the next level. Once you get the job of your dreams you have your road map!
- Check out my recent blog post and example entry plan here Principal Entry Plan- The First 100 Days
3. APPLY: if you've done all your homework and this is the right FIT for you-apply!
- Personal touch: most districts accept applications online- schoolspring.com is a common source and one I recommend all educators sign up for. But remember, you need to separate yourself from other applicants if you really want this job, everyone will be sending in applications online. I always made it a point to visit the school and central office personally to drop off copies of my resume. It shows you care and provides you an opportunity to show your face, so smile!
- Connect with the boss: I often debated this technique, but believe if you don't overdo it and become a stalker, contacting the superintendent with a brief introduction of yourself is a good thing. Again, others may email the superintendent -what separates you? I send a brief email introducing myself with a link to my blogs (Normandin Middle School Blog / Principal Burkhead's Blog) and my 100 day plan (#2 above). I am banking that the superintendent will be curious and check out my information - BANG, instant advantage. Now, before you even interview the office staff knows your smiling face and the superintendent knows your core beliefs on education as evidenced by your work.
4. INTERVIEW: you've made it past the paper screen, now what separates you?
- Preparation: all your hard work researching the school& town in step 1 (FIT) will allow you to share your personal knowledge to the committee. I went to several "interview questions for principals" sites and studied the questions looking for trends. Good example questions here- Example Principal Interview Questions. I narrowed questions down to 50 and placed the questions on index cards (old school). I went to the library and spent several hours/days there answering each question succinctly on the back of each index card based on my personal beliefs and the knowledge I gained from researching the school/district. By interview time I was prepared!
- Don't show up empty handed: some candidates show up with nothing, others with the typical resume and references (they already have this!)-what will you bring to your interview to separate you? I suggest bringing your 100 day plan with at least 15 copies. Print your plan out and take it to staples and have them make it into a book. The committee will appreciate the level of professionalism and the amazing presentation. You may reference the plan during your interview, which will get them reading it. Worst case scenario they leave reading your well-presented plan and recall you as being highly organized and proactive.
- Be yourself: in the end, you want your dream job to be a real place, a place where you can be yourself. I like to share some of my personal life and experiences through a quick story.
- Write personal thank you cards to everyone on the committee-this still works!
- Congratulations you got your dream job! Now, get to work & begin following your Entry Plan
- If you do not get the job, it wasn't meant to be. Start back to #1 above! Don't let news of not getting the job bring you down. I believe two things: 1. things happen for a reason and 2. good things happen to good people. Your dream job is still out there- find it!Good luck to everyone-